I was sitting with my friend Julia Bennett at a magazine and art book fair last Sunday where she was sharing the newest offerings from the AINT-BAD dynasty. It made me think of her commitment to our community, always bringing an upbeat, gracious, and intelligent attitude to all things, and I was feeling lucky to have Julia as a writer and the Visual Media Editor for Lenscratch. But Julia is a lot of things, starting with a fine art photographer who has managed to connect to many areas of the photo world. While attending the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC (she graduated with a B.S. in Marine Science), her interest in photography grew as she was inspired by educators Eliot Dudik and Meg Griffiths. Over the last few years has continued her commitment to photography as an Editorial Assistant for Aint-Bad Magazine, the workshop Coordinator for the Palm Springs Photo Festival, a teaching mentor at Venice Arts in Los Angeles, a teaching assistant at the Maine Media Workshops, but most importantly, by creating new work that reflects her transition of living in the West. Today we feature some of the photographs that reveal her exploration of Los Angeles. Needless, to say, I’m thrilled to have Julia as part of our team.
Julia Bennett is a marine scientist, fine art photographer, and book artist exploring the intersections between science, visual art, and the contemporary social landscape, focusing on how those intersections influence our understanding of a natural world in transition. Julia’s photographs have been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout the US and abroad, including the Columbia Museum of Art (SC), The Pence Gallery (CA), and CSIRO (AUS). Her series Into the Umbra , which explores the microscopic world of plankton, has received multiple grants and awards including the Magellan Scholar Grant and the USC PhotoFest Review Prize. Julia’s work has been published both in print and online, most notably through WIRED, Featureshoot, and PetaPixel. Julia is currently living and making work in Los Angeles, CA.
Julia with a camera
Tell us about your growing up…
I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, in a place called Doylestown. I was raised in a way that allowed for exploration of my boundless curiosity for the natural world. I spent my days collecting jars full of recently vacated cicada skins from the trees in my grandparents back yard, skipping stones, and inventing conflicts among the residents of the forest behind my home which could only be quelled by the twig crown-laden Forest Queen (me).
Julia with cat and doll
What brought you to photography?
My curiosity for understanding my surroundings as a child definitely manifested itself in my creative practice later in life. I found photography as a medium for expressing that curiosity as a young adult in high school, and as soon as I picked up a camera, I was transported back to my days of inspecting, imagining, and exploring my environment. As I continued through high school and into college, I decided to study marine and environmental science but my love for photography persisted as a compliment to, and often integral part of, my scientific studies.
What do you do at Lenscratch?
I am the Visual Media Editor! I oversee the Lenscratch instagram account and all of its fantastic features, takeovers, calls for entry, etc. and will soon be creating some features.
There are so many things. The Lenscratch community has done so much for me in terms of broadening my concept of photography and what it means to make good work. I think the thing I value the most is that it provides a glimpse into a photographer’s process. You don’t just read an artist statement and look at photographs when you visit the Lenscratch site – you’re treated to a thoughtful analysis and sometimes even an interview. As an young emerging photographer it’s really heartening to see how different artists work, what their intentions are, where they come from. It has helped me understand that great work is made in a million different ways. I know this is a pretty novel idea but it’s something I constantly grapple with. The Lenscratch community has provided a space for that.
Naturally I’m thrilled by the Art + Science feature. For me the merging of these two subjects and allowing each to inform the other has made me a better scientist and a better photographer. Its been such a privilege to discover other artists who are working this way and to learn from their process.
Tell us about your photographic practice and any new projects you are working on.
My photographic practice has shifted quite a bit as I navigate life outside the structure of university, but it has remained closely tied to marine science and the environment. In the two years since I left school I’ve moved to Maine, and from there across the country to California, and have traveled quite a bit outside the country as well. I’ve suddenly had to confront a much broader landscape with my camera, complete with a whole new set of environmental, sociological, and cultural issues. I’m very interested in land and water use issues in Southern California. The tension between humans and the landscape is palpable in this region. I’m particularly interested in this tension and the negligence we’ve displayed for the demands of the landscape and its ability to provide us with the resources we need. I’m still shooting a ton and reading a lot but it’s been really fun taking my time and developing the project over a longer period of time than what would have been permitted in a college setting.
What is something unexpected that we don’t know about you?
I once wore the same outfit for nearly an entire year of elementary school. It was a blue velvet skirt/blouse combo with bright yellow roses on it and I thought I looked so fabulous that I refused (and I mean kicking and screaming) to wear anything else week after week. This was maybe first or second grade. I actually can’t remember what happened to that outfit now that I think about it, but I’m certain my mom had some kind of ceremonial burning while I was asleep one night.
I wake up and there’s a steaming french press of sumatra coffee on my bedside table waiting for me to pour. I turn on the news and learn that we now live under a matriarchy of progressive values and equality whereby I am permitted to wear my bathrobe at all times with no social or professional repercussions. As I venture out of my apartment, there are 10 kittens waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. I get in my hover-board and hear on NPR that we have converted to an entirely renewable energy grid and also that it’s totally good for you to eat ice cream for breakfast now. I arrive at the library and find that I am now a speed reader and also have a photographic memory, so I read 5 books or so in an hour and learn lots of cool new stuff. From there I drive (will we still call hover-boarding driving?) up the PCH with my Mamiya 645 and the golden hour light lasts for 3 hours so I have plenty of time to photograph and then take a sunset swim at El Matador.